Marketers As Relationship Scientists

Deepening Consumer-brand Relationships

Advertising as we knew it is dying—and that is a good thing. From basic technical innovation (e.g., ad-blocking going native in browsers), to social trends (like cord-cutting) to new core values (like Gen Z’s caring less and less about brands), everything points in a similar direction. More than ever people are trying to bypass advertising that asks something of them without providing much value.

It’s the end of interruptions.

An Age of Relationship Scientists

Who will benefit from all of this? On one end, consumers will. Despite the omnipresence of innovators like Amazon, consumers will continue to circumvent irrelevant interruptions with diminishing effort as they go about their lives.

So, who will benefit within our industry? We believe this to be an age of relationship science where brands and marketers who thrive use data and trends to build genuine bonds.



A New Consumer-Brand Relationship Paradigm  

Strong relationships between brands and consumers under this context need to comply with three basic features:


  • Unique: engagement at the individual level in a specific, granular way.
  • Meaningful: relevant and impactful interactions between brands and consumers.
  • Self-improving: actions tied to short and long-term, on and offline business results.

Let’s dissect these three pillars.


Sometimes brands try too hard to be unique, becoming cliché (“you should listen to what I’m saying, because it’s unique.”) Here we refer to something completely different.

Many marketers see growth by engaging with consumers individually—this is not hyperbole. One by one, like the relationships you have with each person in your life, brands form genuine bonds. Scaling these personal bonds to the hundreds of thousands or millions is not easy, but it’s never been more attainable.

As advertisers, many of us rely on persona building to learn more about our audience. Still, personas are only useful as a starting point. People-based marketing is changing the advertising landscape forever, enabling us to establish concrete relationships at a one-to-one level, beyond these basic archetypes.


As marketers, we should aim for our brands to be discovered, not pushed into people’s minds. We don’t want our brands to be the sign at the side of the road—we want them to be the destination.

As much as impactful, creative storytelling helps us break through the clutter, it should solely be considered the price of admission. In order to build progressively deeper relationships, brands need to establish a permanent flow of micro-impacts at the individual level.

A solid “micro-persona” ecosystem—beyond generic consumer definitions, paired with people-based marketing—helps us build stronger and deeper relationships based on relevance and timing. What brands choose to do with these deeper relationships should be carefully aligned with the trust that has been created.


It’s important not to fall into the trap of oversimplifying what a self-improving brand relationship is. As an industry we claim, “everything is measurable.” It can be easy to simplify our KPIs and only track the depth of our relationships through them.

But to strengthen our relationships with consumers we must leverage first- and third-party data, tie online engagement with physical store traffic, and connect CRM segments with social graphs. Intentional, thoughtful and sensitive usage of data means you care about both your consumer and your brand.

As an industry we need to evolve (and are currently evolving) the conversation from mere attribution modeling to fully individualized consumer journeys. From assessing the impact of a channel on another, to understanding how a unique relationship between a consumer and a brand is born, the bond grows stronger or further apart.

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